Arc'teryx FL-355 - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The waist belt on the Arc'teryx FL-355 is unlike most others in this review. It's four inches wide and uses Arc'teryx's "Warp Technology." The load is carried across the entire waist belt, unlike some other harnesses that build up padding around one or two strands of webbing. This model has four ice clipper slots and a small, non-structural haul loop in the rear.
The FL-355 is one of the most comfortable harnesses in fleet — for standing at least. The thin waist belt and legs loops are not confining, and we didn't get too sweaty in it. The gear loops lay flat, which is nice if you end up hiking around from climb to climb with your harness and pack on at the same time. Our only quibble about the standing comfort was the leg loops — they stay rather thick all the way around and don't taper as much as the Black Diamond Solution's, and they tended to dig into our crotch area a bit — not so comfy!
When it came time to hang in this harness, we noticed those leg loops even more, and they dug into us in all of the wrong ways and the wrong places. The edges of the leg loops are designed to roll a bit (so that a sharp edge isn't digging right into you), and this is an improvement over the older 280 model. But, we still felt them digging into our thighs, and we never wanted to "hang out" long in this one.
This harness does have some great features, including spacious gear loops that can hold a lot of gear or quickdraws. The rear haul loop is on the small side, but it's a little more structurally sound than some of the p-cord style rear loops. It does say 0kN on the tag, but that's to remind you not to use it as a clip in point — it can still handle the weight of a rope. There are four ice clipper loops sewn to the exterior of the harness, but they aren't quite as functional as some that are sliced into the body of the harness. You might have some wiggling with these depending on which ice tool carabiner that you have. It does come with a teeny-tiny bag, which helps you pack it down small. We liked that feature when looking to save room in our packs or luggage.
This harness has great mobility, and it was on par with many other lightweight harnesses in our review. One of the things that help with mobility is the elastic on the leg loops, which is something that the FL-355 has that the AR-385 doesn't.
While the FL-355 can be used for a variety of applications, you might not be able to wear this one over anything but a light pair of leggings unless your legs are very skinny. This makes it a little less versatile than its sister, the AR-385a, which can adjust to fit over heavier pants or winter wear. Also, because this model wasn't so comfortable to hang in it wouldn't be our first choice for a long route.
The leg loops are not adjustable, and they felt on the tight side for us. The elastic on the legs didn't have a lot of stretch to it either. According to their sizing chart, a Small's leg loops should be 22 to 24 inches, but they are really 20 inches according to our measurements, which felt constricting even on our 21-inch thighs. We did like the high rise on this model, but we've noticed something interesting with this harness that we haven't with any other brand; men wearing the women's model and vice versa. Depending on your geometry, you may find the men's more suited to your shape than the women's. And lucky for the men who fit better in the women's version, Arc'teryx has switched away from purple and on to more gender-neutral colors.
The Arc'teryx FL-355 is the second most expensive harness in our review, with only the AR-385a costing more. If you have the dough and want to spend it on this harness, it is a quality piece of gear, but it seems a little overpriced considering the rest of the market. The "FL" in the name stands for "fast and light," whereas the "AR" version is for "all-around" use. After using both, we think they are highly similar, with the only difference being the adjustable leg loops (and the one-ounce weight difference that comes with it.
The Arc'teryx FL-355 is a head-turner; no doubt about it. Every time we brought it out to a crag, the ladies (and even men) were curious to try it on and give it a whirl. While it has a remarkable design, it didn't quite fit the bill for us when it came to comfort and fit. This could still be the best option for you if the fit is right, and it's nice and compact as well for alpine routes or traveling.